In 2013, 26 women were killed in the West Bank and Gaza by their relatives. This number is double the number of Palestinian women killed in 2012. These so-called ‘honor killings’ are perpetrated by male family members who kill a female family member who is suspected of shaming the family. Human rights activists are calling for a change in the law saying that killing for family honor is just a socially acceptable form of violence against women.

The rise in the killings is attributed to tough economic times and a historical leniency when facing punishment for these crimes. Poverty in Palestine has also been on the rise in the last few years. Pressure has been put on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to repeal sections of laws on the books that allow for short sentences for the perpetrators of honor killings. Many times, perpetrators only face a couple of years at maximum.

Reasons for honor killings vary. One woman was killed by her father for allegedly using a cell phone to talk to a man. Another woman was killed by her brother while praying who later claimed that he acted to preserve the honor of his family. People who claim that they killed to preserve honor are almost always treated less harshly than they would be otherwise.

Former legislator Hanan Ashrawi has repeated called on Abbas to repeal sections of laws that discriminate against women but hasn’t gained much ground. She placed blame on male politicians who put women’s issues on the back burner in favor of other issues they deem more pressing, such as establishing the state of Palestine and ending the Israeli occupation. “We are fighting for freedom and human dignity,” she said. “How can you deprive women of all these things?”

– Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: The Washington Post, Haaretz
Photo: Forqudsday

At the age of 25, Khalida Brohi has already made a difference in improving women’s rights. In 2009, she founded a nonprofit organization called Sughar, dedicated to empowering women, giving them opportunities to become future leaders and ending honor killings. Here are a few things to know about Brohi and this organization:

1. It grew out of tragedy

When Brohi was 16 and living in Pakistan, she witnessed an honor killing; more specifically, that of her friend who had decided to marry someone she loved rather than choosing someone her family had approved.

Brohi has said, “In a society where I live, life for a girl is a continued struggle, especially for a girl who chooses to do something ‘different’ – she has to fight the hardest and often has to pay a heavy price.” Brohi decided to stand up against the custom of honor killings in Pakistan and instead promote the honoring and empowerment of women.

2. Its best-known program is the Sughar Women Program

Based out of Balochistan and Sindh in Pakistan, Sughar makes it its mission to created Women Learning and Skill Development Centers in rural communities in the country. Each center teaches a six-month course to tribal and rural women to improve their skills. These women are given access to a basic education, which includes developing literary skills, learning about enterprise development and promoting awareness.

The ultimate goal to enable these women to become better decision-makers, larger contributors to their households and live more successful lives. The women also practice traditional embroidery as part of their Rural Fashion Brand and are marketed across Pakistan. Additionally, every course offers a minimum loan to each woman after she has graduated to both promote entrepreneurship and a decrease in violence.

3. It also works to strengthen women’s land rights and food security in Pakistan

In Pakistan, tribal women especially suffer from a lack of ownership rights, as many are not permitted to own anything in their homes, let alone rights to property. Sughar works to change this societal and cultural norm by encouraging these women to change the way they think about themselves.

Furthermore, Sughar works with the local communities in Pakistan as well as the government and media to allow women to purchase land and act on their ownership rights. These women are also given training on farming innovations, which could have an impact on improving the standard of living.

4.The organization also works to raise awareness on climate change

Sughar’s relationships with local communities extend to its work to educate men and women about climate change. Women are becoming increasingly effected by climate change because they are being forced to deal with extreme weather changes. They also provide information for them about how to cope with the growing number of natural disasters and how women living in rural communities should react.

5. The word “Sughar” is translated to mean skilled and confident woman

Brohi has said, “The future woman is Sughar (skilled and confident) who knows where she is stepping to and what she wants from life. She is aware that in the past there have been women fighting for the rights she is enjoying currently and therefore she would be grateful and willing to contribute to the betterment of society.”

The label “Sughar” is rarely used in Pakistan, but Brohi’s organization believes that every woman is worthy of such coveted recognition.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: Women in the World, Ashoka India, Sughar, The Daily Beast, Forbes
Photo: Sonya Rehman